Skies, can’t live with them, can’t live without them, indicates some of the difficulty that the greatest source of light on the planet can present to photographers and may explain why some retreat on a more or less permanent basis to a studio where these things can be controlled. That, however is not the fate of the landscaper, the wedding photographer, the took-the-camera-on-holiday snapper, well, anyone who takes a photograph of, or in, the great outdoors. Pretty much everyone, then.
Dynamic range is the problem, luminance, the ability of a sensor to reproduce the extremes of blacks and whites in a photograph and everything in between. The human eye/brain combo has a dynamic range of 10-14 f-stops, about 1/1,000,000,000 times the faintest light to that of the of our local star in the middle of a bright and sunny day. DXO give the highest dynamic range of any commercially available DSLR at 14.8 stops. So how can that be a problem? Most modern DSLR’s and CSC’s appear to be within that 10-14 stop range so can emulate the human brain. Yes and no. The question is where the average that you are metering for lies in that range. Your camera does not possess the same dynamic processing capabilities as your brain which constantly adjusts to available light levels (and has been several million years in the development in doing so). What we see in an image is the capture of a moment. It is fixed. The exif data tells you that. What we see with our eyes is dynamically adjusted to what we “know” and changes constantly. In our brains the “shutter” is always rolling, not fixed.
That expectation can be shown in an image with a high dynamic range (that’s a clue) but necessarily arranged around the average the light meter has constructed or the camera instructed by the photographer. Those f-stops in the range have captured the information, we just need to rebalance the image to our expectations. That was the subject of our last meeting and Gerry Painter, Mark O’Grady and Nick Hale gave us some valuable leads on how, with some contributions from the floor, using both Adobe (Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop) and Smart Photo Editor how we can use that inbuilt dynamic range to our own advantage; and yes the same applies to JPEG and to RAW, just not in equal measure.
Broadly the latitude in a JPEG is plus or minus 2 stops over the “correctly” exposed average. With RAW that moves to approximately +/-3 stops. What the sensor can see, approximately, and what the eye can see, is not the same as the sensor records in straight numbers. There are a number of solutions that are available including HDR either from a single or multiple frames plus the various trips that we were shown using the tools available in the photo editing suites and we mentioned above. A single HDR image taken pushed to reveal the highlights and so then back to the original and push to the shadows then combine the three to cover a greater range is one way but if the range needs to be extended further then three separate shots can be used. To get the best out of this will usually require dedicated software such as Luminance HDR, which is free, or Photomatics or any number of similarly capable software, to blend the images into one.
There are, of course, other factors to consider, especially if you are blending two images, especially the quality/temperature of the light needing to match to make things convincing. That is convincing, not accurate – see the discussions of this over the last two posts. This was shown to be relatively straightforward, what doesn’t match between two images really stands out rather clearly and it is down to being a little critical of the outcome. Does this look as if it is one image, or does it look like more than one image crammed together. The hit and hopes do tend to stand out. As ever it is a matter of personal taste. It’s your photograph, what are you happy with?
Which brings us to round 2 of the ROC. Paul McCloskey was our judge and thanks to him for his insights and reflections on the night. The number of images commended was the highest to date and reflects not just a growth in quality but also one in diversity. The club moves from strength to strength. There was some conversation about what Paul saw and what some in the audience saw differently, as ever when we compare and contrast each other’s work, but that is both a good and necessary thing. The story we think we are sending out won’t always be the story that other’s think we are telling, and that can open us to other opportunities.
Results are as follows, those marked No Image Available mean exactly that. There was no image in the cloud folder for them.
Digital Print Images
Beauty and the Beast
No Image Available
No Image Available
No Image Available
Centre of Attention
The Big Bang Theory
Who Needs a Parrot?
Butterfly With No Name
It’s a Bird
Brecon Beacons – Falls
Sorry I’m Late
The Greek Goddess Ariadne
Congratulations everybody, a fine showing.
17 December Meeting SCHOOL IS CLOSED. REPAIR TO THE UPSTAIRS OF THE LANGTON COURT ON LANGTON COURT ROAD. Bring something festive to eat and lots and lots of prints of any size – it will be fun.
Next meeting at the School: January 7th 2016 – Chairman Maurice has the floor. Read up on your Little Red Books …
As we approach carnival season, Somerset style (see below) and the photo opportunities that creates, we spent last meeting huddled around various laptops editing in a handful of different editing programmes following on from Marko Nurinem’s virtuoso display last week. So there was Lightroom (of course) but also GIMP, Smart Photo Editor, Picasa, and Photoscape with CS2 (free from Adobe and all quite legal here is how to get it) ACDSee getting honourable mentions from new member Gary.
Now, you long term readers of this blog will know that the world divides into two camps, the Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista’s and Ye-Accolytes-of-Photoshop. As an avowed Get-it-right-in-the-cameraista I sure do a lot of editing. The argument is that the more you get it right for you in the camera the less fiddling around you have to do in post-production. In my case it comes from a youth spent shooting expensive slide film on a shoestring budget. In these digital days, when the hardware is still expensive but the marginal cost of the next image is a fraction of a penny, what that is really about is expanding the chances of achieving the image you want to capture. The principle categories in photo editing programmes are those that alter the fundamentals of the image and those that layer effects on. Of course the real world contains a bit of both usually, but the fundamental approach will be one or the other.
If you are shooting in RAW the images can seem a little flat and dull – remember that what you see in the viewfinder is either a reflected image of the actual light falling on your subject or, in CSC’s and compacts, effectively a jpeg. Sometimes a little cropping or erasing extraneous details make for a more satisfying final product. Maybe a shadow could do with lightening or a sky darkening to get back some detail, or a blemish on the skin would be more flatteringly removed from the portrait. Smart Photo Editor is the proprietary, paid for (£19.95 ‘on sale’ and a bargain stand alone and £34.95 as a Photoshop Plug in) programme I use and also Gimp and Picasa, both free. Others use other combinations, some paid for some free.
Your ambition may not quite extend to the do everything Photoshop (yet at least) and I will venture two reasons pecuniary why you may not, one more obvious than the other, viz: (A) you don’t have the set up or space or need for it to make the most of it and (B) Zombies. The former is more obviously expensive than the latter, and I don’t want to get into an endless and ultimately fruitless kit pornography rant, so ’nuff said, but the latter can have quite an impact on the pocket. Let me explain.
Fortunate as most club members are to be living in a city that has an “Official” policy for handling of a Zombie outbreak, that isn’t quite what I mean – though there are worrying sightings. Zombies are those little items, small denominations, that walk out of your bank account every month without much thought. In isolation they are not a lot. Their attraction is their affordability, the trade is made worth it by the perceived quality/quantity you get in return – at the point of purchase. You get a lot of things with Adobe’s Creative Cloud for photography for £8.57 a month, no doubt. A more detailed and flexible programme there is yet to be brought to market, though the gap may be closing. It is, I suspect, a lot more than most amateur photographers need, but it’s always nice to have some extra wumph under the bonnet. If it wasn’t no sports cars or sports bikes would ever get sold. For a vocal minority bragging rights are always the primary concern.
That, though isn’t quite the point. Are you going to pay (and keep on paying) £102.84 straight out on something you might need? No? But might pay £8.57 a month on something that is more than you need, something you can expand in to. It’s there and it ticks over and you get used to it. But, when is it just one item? When it’s a couple, or three, it grows. £20.00 a month isn’t a lot to spend on a hobby, say on editing and storage. £240 a year is not an inconsiderable amount to waste. Certainly less than a divorce lawyer when the other half finds out how much you really spent on that camera body. That’s halfway to a very decent new lens or a goodly second hand one even on £20.00 a month. The zombies keep on walking and are easy to add to, easy to forget. The costs add up. On the other hand it keeps you up to date and Adobe get a steady revenue stream, pirate copies are fewer and far between. Easier if you are self employed and you can claim it against tax, of course.
Not that I am seeking to dissuade you. The reality is Adobe first, the others a long way behind when it comes to sales and it is a de facto industry standard, which in itself generates market share for Adobe. Our focus, though, was on a broader range of editing opportunities as well as Photoshop. We looked a little at the alternatives to Photoshop on the Ask Reflex evening, this evening was a chance to get closer to the subject. From a little tour round I would say that there is a great deal that you can do with a little practice, patience and occasional lateral thinking as members showed how they adapt what they have to get what they want.
There is another benefit to using editing software that may not be immediately apparent, at least at the time of shutter release and really is about getting your money’s worth. Through cropping your original image you can often find more than one image possibility from a given frame. (Don’t confuse image crop, cutting out bits of a bigger picture with sensor crop the physics of collecting the same amount of light on different sized sensors). You effectively recompose the photograph, albeit with less data in it. It might be that the light and shadow falling across a landscape actually yield two very different moods when you isolate each area and you now have three opportunities from one frame. I would say that, in work flow terms, cropping is the first thing that you do, because you have the essential character in view that you want to work with. The crop is basically a magnification of the connection that drew you to take that frame in the first place. There are frequent chances to re-crop a frame rarely do we crop so tight that there isn’t any wriggle room and even then, sometimes, going more extreme tells a different story. Of all the editing you can do this is perhaps the simplest and the one with the biggest potential, which is why I would suggest it’s the best place to start the editing.
follow the link as it will show you the dates and also has descriptions of themes. Click on the individual carnival websites for start times etc. Below is a copy of Myk’s post on the club Facebook page:
“This year’s Someset Carnival season is almost here. If anyone would like to attend one of these events as a group, please see the dates and locations below.
We’ll be making announcements on club meetings so everyone will get to hear about it.
Monday 09/11/15 – Burnham on Sea
Friday 13/11/15 – Weston Super Mare
Monday 16/11/15 – Midsomer Norton
Wednesday 18/11/15 – Shepton Mallet
Friday 20/11/15 – Wells
Saturday 21/11/15 – Glastonbury
The preferred date/venue is Wells on 20/11 as they have market stalls, hot food/drinks and a fairground in the market square”.
Reflex Open Competition Round 1.
Dockside this week, the last meeting of the 2014-15 season, near full moon and clear skies and the biggest boat ( the Lady Sandals, a private yacht that was, maybe, once owned by the actor Nicholas Cage for a few days, who also, I seem to remember, once owned a castle hereabouts he never visited – he is a man of expensive hobbies) seen in the basin for a long while (the MV Balmoral possibly accepted and then there wouldn’t be much in it either way though she was in the Bristol Channel I believe). We met under the “Big Shiny Ball” aka “The Disco Ball”, in reality the Planitarium in Bristol’s Millennium Square. Can’t say my own pictures were particularly heart stopping but I do have one, straight out of the camera, absolutely no post production, that apparently breaks the laws of physics. Need some time to puzzle that one out, or possibly engaging a Galactic Lawyer, but hey can’t say the evening wasn’t productive!
The Millennium that the Square celebrates was supposed to bring in many apocalyptic changes. Photographically it marked the beginning of the commercial change from film to digital and the relegation of a dominant medium to a men-in-cardigans-sucking-teeth medium in a couple of years. Then nostalgia isn’t what it once was. Stephen Mayes in an article in Time Magazine (thanks Mark Stone for posting via Facebook) this week argued that the changes were bigger than we first thought and that the photograph as photograph isn’t “Dead as many have claimed, but it’s gone“. The interconnected context of a photograph today, never mind the volumes of data about ourselves their sharing gives away, does not represent the optically and physically fixed idea of an article of record we think it does. Only a third of any image produced digitally, represents this century and a half truism of an unadorned record (and that was always at least part myth anyway), the rest of a JPEG or TIF file is interpolated. And the data in a RAW file, the digitally closest thing to a negative, can be manipulated in a near infinite number of ways. He cites Kevin Connor’s conjecture that the camera has evolved from picture making device to a data collecting one.
This does actually matter in our interconnected world, one where the next evolution of the i-phone may have a 12mp camera and 4K video capability, but also one where ALL the data on the phone, your life, good days, bad days and secrets between friends are shared globally in real time without you ever thinking about it. The delete button ONLY works on your phone. The myriad privacy statements and unread end user licensing agreements (EULA) allow us, distracted by the shiny things that these little miracles do and say, to unthinkingly give away data worth billions and permanently record those things we, maybe, one day wish had been left to fade from memory. Oh yes the digital camera now fits right in and not just camera-phones either because we upload/share not just the image but the exif data as well, maybe add a few comments, most of them instantly forgettable, lol, corny or otherwise steeped in a sauce of our own delusional wit, rotfl – to the point of incontinence. The point is “Except in photojournalism, there will be no such thing as a ‘straight photograph’; everything will be an amalgam, an interpretation, an enhancement or a variation – either by the photographer as auteur or by the camera itself” (Mayes after Marc Levoy).
My answer to that is, it always was. Composition? Decisive moment? Story telling? All a part of the art from day one because it was life imitating art at the beginning and ever since the very presence of a camera makes a difference to the way people act. That’s why “authentic” street photography sounds akin to stalking or surveillance in behavioural technique. That, however, maybe to (slightly) misrepresent Mayes, who is actually pitching that the photograph has and is becoming much more. It may, at the simplest level, represent a 2D representation of a 3D world but that 3D world now includes other experiences. Like the hyperlinks in this post represent layers of definition, interpretation and ultimately meaning through multiple perspectives with the text serving as guide in the same way as the image fires the story we put to it. Another point that this raises in my mind is that photojournalism isn’t immune from these things it is enhanced and increasingly depends. Apart from? Especially? Isn’t a crowd sourced citizen journalism closer to the notion of a cinema verite (Though someone still has to curate it)? And who has got the time to navigate this planet around every image world? Apart from Cultural Historians, Auteurs and the long term unemployed “Ain’t nobody got time for that“. Maybe that is the point. An image has a during, usually of a fraction of a second, we can only speculate about the before and afters for the most part.
Without a doubt photography is changing. Arguably there are fewer professionals around these days and someone turning up with a camera is no longer an event because everyone, virtually, has a camera as long as they have a Smartphone – and not just in the advanced economies. Mind you, turn up with a tripod and everyone thinks you know what you are doing. Within seconds you can be surrounded by men-in-cardigans-sucking-teeth telling you that nostalgia isn’t what it was and sticky fingered children asking you what that button does (not to ignore a few sticky fingered adults making off with your camera bag). Mayes is right though, new technologies, or the shrinking and disseminating of old ones does ask questions of society, not all of them comfortable to answer and in a culture of exploitation for profit the balance of privacy v profit will not naturally fall to the best individual interests of you and I. Then can you take the word of a bloke on the run from the World’s Creator Myths for breaking the laws of Physics?
N E X T M E E T I N G
Back to School for the first meeting of the 2015-16 calendar. Bring along your images of the summer and share.